I’m not going to lie, finding an apartment in Madrid was one of the most stressful parts about moving here. Not only do you need a place to live, but you need an official address for your NIE process. It was particularly difficult because I was looking in August, when all the university students were coming back and looking as well. It’s a very competitive market, but it is not impossible. You will struggle, but you will find an apartment that is right for you.
The main website I recommend using is Idealista. There is also spotahome, however I heard this website has a lot of scams posted. The other app I used was Badi, which is like Tinder, but for roommates instead. When you are sending a message about apartments, remember that people are receiving hundreds if not thousands of replies. This is not meant to discourage you, but to make you think realistically. Try to make sure they will remember you. I recommend calling the posting or sending a message on Whatsapp, you are much more likely to get a reply. This goes without saying, but you are also much more likely to be successful if you send the messages in Spanish.
Once you send the message it’s time to set up the viewing. I recommend taking someone to visit the apartment with you, as it always helps to have a second pair of eyes looking at the place. Not every message will end up in a viewing. I sent out countless messages but only ended up viewing three apartments total. A lot of people either never replied or replied saying the place was no longer available. Just keep sending messages until you finally set up a viewing. Communicating with all the landlords was not as difficult as I thought it would be. It’s mostly just a series of questions such as ‘Is the apartment still available?’, ‘when can I set up a viewing?’, or ‘is wifi included?’. If you don’t speak Spanish, I recommend asking someone who does for help. This goes for the lease as well, I recommend having someone help you read it, even if you do speak Spanish. I am confident with my Spanish, but needed someone to look it over before I signed such an important legal document. There are plenty of people in the program who are available to help you read your lease.
Another tip I have is asking around. Sometimes finding an apartment is a matter of who you know. One month is not much time to develop a network, but it can’t hurt to try. If you go to an intercambio or other event, ask if anyone is renting or looking for a roommate. If someone meets you in person, they may be much more likely to rent to you than one of the hundreds of people messaging them on Idealista. This is how I got my housing. The landlord of our temporary housing had an open room and offered it to me since she already knew me, I even managed to negotiate the rent down a little bit. I had viewed about 3 apartments at that point and had no leads, so this was a huge relief for me.
For rent, expect to pay anywhere from €350-€550 for a room (only pay €550 if the place is really nice and utilities are included). For utilities, expect to pay around €40-60 (this will increase if you use the heat in winter). I mentioned I managed to negotiate my rent down, I only recommend doing this if you are sure the landlord wants you as a tenant. The market is very competitive and if you try to negotiate without being sure the landlord will probably just find someone who is willing to pay the original rent price.
Be open to living in different neighborhoods. If you have your heart set on one neighborhood that is okay but continue searching in others. Who knows, you may end up loving a neighborhood that is different from the one you wanted. In general, you will encounter more expats in the city center and will find more Spanish people outside of the center. This depends on what experience you want. For me, I wanted to use my Spanish, so I chose to live in Chamberí, slightly outside of the center where English is a little less common. If you are planning to go out and enjoy the nightlife however, it may make sense to live closer to the center where you won’t have as long of a metro ride. This is important, considering the Madrid metro stops running at 1:30 am.
Speaking of the metro, consider your commute when apartment hunting. You won’t have classes assigned yet but be sure whatever apartment you are looking at is close to a metro stop or two. I live nearby three different metro lines and having so many options really cuts back on my commute time. I would suggest living nearby metro line 10, it connects with all other metro lines at some point. Another good option is the 1, it goes straight to the major museums in downtown and goes further north where a lot of our classes are.
Several people in our group had luck finding an apartment through a rental agency. These agencies charge high fees, but it may be worth it if you are burnt out from searching on Idealista. The fees tend to deter a lot of people, so you won’t have quite as much competition for these rentals. This is particularly helpful if you are looking for a whole apartment for a group of people, although agencies also rent single rooms. The fees are expensive though and expect to pay a month or two of rent on top of that and the deposit.
When you hunt for apartments, I suggest you make a list of things that are necessary (wifi/utilities set up, furnishes, near a metro line etc.). Include in the list things that are nice but not required (air conditioning, near a lot of cool restaurants, etc.) I also recommend being flexible. The Madrid housing market can be difficult to navigate and being open to options will help you find housing quicker. Be open to having different roommates and living somewhere you didn’t expect. I didn’t want roommates but ending up living with 6 other people. While it gets crowded at times, it has been a great way to meet people I never would have met normally. Regardless of where you end up living, your experience in Madrid will be amazing.